By on December 7, 2011

The UAW called off the transplant war. It won’t even identify an organizing target among foreign automakers with U.S. operations, UAW President Bob King told Reuters (via Automotive News [sub] ):

“We are not going to announce a target at all. We are not going to create a fight.”

At the beginning of this year, the United Auto Workers pledged that it would launch a campaign to organize the foreign-owned, non-union “transplant” factories in the US. Organizing at least one transplant was branded as a matter of life-and-death for the union.

A week ago, the UAW back pedaled and said it would simply pick an automaker to target by the end of 2011.

Even that isn’t happening.

Instead, King said meekly that the UAW is in talks with all of the German, Japanese and Korean automakers with U.S. factories and expects to continue to make progress toward organizing workers in their operations.

Some day. Maybe.

 

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39 Comments on “UAW Surrenders. Transplants Remain Unorganized...”


  • avatar
    DenverInfidel

    They have gone from laughable to just sad.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    In the South, where lots of those “foreign” automakers have their plants, people are militantly ambiguous about unions. There are some, mainly older people, who remember the way companies treated labor before unions; they are dying out now. And then there are the others, mainly younger, who just need a job, any job, forget a decent wage. Over time, if companies don’t treat their employees right, the second group will transition to the first. But in this economy, management holds virtually all the cards, and the UAW apparently realized that, so they folded.

    • 0 avatar
      chris724

      Many of us now will remember the way unions have treated companies, before they drove everything off to China. Maybe in 40-50 years, these memories will start dying off, and unions can make a comeback.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind wanting to follow the tenets of the UAW after what the UAW did to their employers and the US auto industry with their unrealistic demands for wages and benefits. Jobbank, anyone? Bankruptcy, anyone?

      Maybe the Americans working at the transplants now would rather be working in a non-UAW environment instead of being collectively bargained out of their jobs and income by the UAW, or have their employers driven into bankruptcy like what happened with GM and Chrysler.

      The track record of the UAW is clear. It is a part of automotive history. Only revisionists would portray the UAW as having been good for the US auto industry and its players. Maybe if Chrysler had not been unionized it would still be an American auto manufacturer instead of an Italian one.

      • 0 avatar
        windswords

        If things were different maybe Nissan would be a Japanese auto manufacturer instead of a French one.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        So true. But since I never cared about Nissan OR French cars, that connection was lost on me.

        I did buy a new 1979 Peugeot 505 (tax-free) at Schiphol International Airport as a favor for one of my uncles in Portugal.

        I drove it down to him from Amsterdam to the small village about 35 miles outside of Lisbon. The controls were so different from anything I ever owned or had driven. As far as I know one of my cousins still drives that old Peugeot today.

        But what is not lost on me is that Chrysler is now an Italian company, especially in the light of recently having bought a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit V6 4X4 for my wife.

        Anxiety abounds about having warranty work done on her JGC, if needed, since we all know about Chrysler’s past rep for honoring warranty claims, and Fiat’s past demise in the US market because of overwhelming warranty claims.

        How can a combination of Chrysler and Fiat into Fiatsler possibly result in a synergy that is any good? How can two bad make one good?

  • avatar
    jaje

    There are many transplants that have plants in the north w/in a stone’s throw of UAW controlled plants (well many of those have shut their doors) that have a workforce who understand the UAW – and still no success.

    In their best impersonation of GM’s Wagoner, King will claim some kind of victory of that they took the high / moral road and no accountability will be realized from this.

    • 0 avatar
      toxicroach

      I don’t know why you’d want to join the UAW at this point. Most of the staff at transplant factories are making more than the new labor at UAW plants. No reason to join the losing team.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    If the transplants remain “unorganized” does that mean the domestics remain “disorganized”?

  • avatar
    MarkP

    “Most of the staff at transplant facilities are making more than the new labor at UAW plants.”

    Really? What is the typical VW-Chattanooga worker making, and what is a typical new hire at a UAW plant making?

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      I don’t know the exact number for either one.
      But the UAW had to accept Tier 2 or die.
      And Tier 2 (after deducting union dues) can’t be much different from transplant wages.
      So the UAW is left with selling the proposition that “you won’t have to work as hard” after you sign up with us. And since the transplants have generally hired sensible folks, that argument doesn’t hold much long term appeal.

      • 0 avatar
        bandwspeed6

        So some quick research indicates a newly hired employee at the VW plant would make 14.50 an hour, plus benefits (wsj.com). Entry Level employees at GM are going to be making 15.78 an hour, plus benefits, under the latest contract (autoblog.com). If you really wanted to compare these numbers it would be worth while to look into cost of living around the VW plant vs. one of the GM plants, as well as the value of the benefits package (healthcare, tuition benefits, etc) offered by each employer.

      • 0 avatar
        GS650G

        So they make 1.28 more an hour, that’s 51.20 a week more. What’s the union dues set them back? Probably half or more of the difference.

        And the really good workers get the same as the really bad workers. Ain’t unions grand?

        So for a hundred or so dollars a month more you work in an adversarial relationship where the company is constantly looking for ways to eliminate jobs and the Union is constantly looking for ways to protect jobs for all workers, including the bad ones, so it can scoop up dues and spend millions on politicians and fringe benefits for it’s leadership.

        I’m glad I’m not in manufacturing.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        You also have to account for the lower cost of living in the southern states as compared to the industrial Midwest or Northeast.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    I thought that I had read that some (many?) of the labor force at the VW Chattanooga plant were actually employees of another company that provided labor to VW, kind of like a temp employee company. Typically such employees get less than permanent, full-time employees.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    Be all of that as it may, unions as they have been known since the days of Jimmy Hoffa are all but dead.

    Even with current economic conditions, if a worker is treated ‘THAT’ badly, they will simply leave. Any manager worth their weight in crappy ties and bonuses knows that.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    The biggest threat to unions is the internet, just as it has aided the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings.

    Widespread silence from the non-union workers regarding their poor treatment means Bob King’s claims about these things are false.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Meanwhile their members aimlessly picketing random dealerships, promoting the union’s more negative values, making them less popular than ever in the eyes of the public… Great strategy.

  • avatar
    Pahaska

    I spent a few hours last week touring the Toyota plant in San Antonio. I came away highly impressed by the way they treat their workers. Everyone was working hard, but it was obvious that everyone had enough time to do their job well. I did not see even one instance where someone seemed rushed. The plant was spotless and there was an obvious sense of pride in putting out a fine product.

    A separate company does all of the hiring, testing, and training. The first few weeks on the line, workers still work for the hiring company. Only when they are up to speed, do they become Toyota employees.

    There is a medical clinic, pharmacy, and gym on site for employees and families.

  • avatar
    damikco

    Fact is that it takes years to get hired in Toyota. I know of many people complaing about being a temp for so long

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    Can’t say as I’m surprised. In their day unions did a lot of good and probably sometime in the future they will again. But for now, they don’t provide enough for what they charge in dues to your average worker.

    I remember in H.S. taking a part time job at a local grocery store and finding out that my pay was automatically deducted for union dues. Of which the union never did anything for me that I could tell except take money off my paycheck and it wasn’t an insignificant amount either.

    So from the employees at the transplants, I suspect they are happy and see no reason to give money to someone else as they feel that in all likelihood, they will not get any value out of the prospect long-term especially compared to how much it will cost them.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    I don’t understand why so many car enthusiasts seem to be so virulently anti-union. Without unions, management has all the power and workers have none. If you happen to work for a good company that treats its employees well, then great! Hang on as long as you can. If you work for a company that treats its employees as replaceable parts to be worked to death and then thrown away, then tough luck. Quit and find another job, you complaining slacker! Oh, wait a minute – that’s right – there are no other jobs.

    • 0 avatar
      GS650G

      “Oh, wait a minute – that’s right – there are no other jobs.”
      Unions depend on this belief every single day. There are plenty of jobs at other auto plants, apparently these people found them. I bet a few used to build for the big 3 at some point. The long suffering UAW member got several years warning the party was over, some of them made the most of the situation and did something about it. Others listened in UAW halls to uplifting speeches about how the greedy SOBs weren’t going to get away with treating their members this way.

      Guess which group came out ahead?

      • 0 avatar
        MarkP

        Have you looked at a newspaper or watched the news on TV in the last couple of years? Did you happen to notice the unemployment numbers, you know, the ones that don’t even count those people who have been out of a job so long they have stopped looking? Yes, VW provided some jobs in a very, very depressed job market in the region around Chattanooga. People lined up to apply. You might ask yourself why so many people lined up to apply. It’s because there are no jobs out there. If you doubt that, I suggest that you do a little experiment. Quit your job and start looking for one at a different company. The current job situation is an answered prayer for big business: hoardes of unemployed with no choice but to accept a job on any terms management decrees.

        I wish more Americans would read up a little on the history of the labor movement in this country. Oh well, at least big companies aren’t hiring goons to shoot strikers.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        MarkP: Yes, VW provided some jobs in a very, very depressed job market in the region around Chattanooga. People lined up to apply. You might ask yourself why so many people lined up to apply. It’s because there are no jobs out there.

        Yes, we are in a severe recession. But I’m missing the part as to how unions in general are going to create more jobs, or even how VW workers joining the UAW will create more jobs at this particular plant.

        Unless the union plans to require VW to hire three full-time people to change light bulbs every day, or ten full-time people to stand by with brooms in case someone spills something. That isn’t good for VW or even the workers in the long run.

        Michigan is a strong union state, but if VW had opened up that plant in Michigan, the line of applicants would have dwarfed that of the line in Tennessee.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    The point is not that unions will create jobs, but that unions can help protect the interests of labor instead of letting management control everything. I understand that it was a long time ago, but there is ample evidence of how that works out if you read the history books.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Honda’s been running a non-unionized auto manufacturing facility in Marysville for 30 years – how much longer do you expect it will take for the plant to become a Victorian madhouse of exploitation and abuse?

      I only ask because the last time I was inside the Marysville plant it looked much more pleasant than the majority of UAW plants I’ve been in. Better job security, too.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Most managers of large corporations have read those books, too, and realize that mistreating the workers opens the door for a unionization drive.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I’m a white-collar engineer who has occasionally been mistreated by management.

      I have no say in my benefits.

      I work extra hours for free. My motivation to do so is to keep my job, because I can be terminated at any time.

      Why don’t I organize a union? Because I can look elsewhere for work, and because I don’t want to pay dues. I probably make less than some unionized workers. Should I be part of a union?

      • 0 avatar
        MarkP

        If you are unhappy or dissatisfied with your situation, and if you think you can find a better job, I suggest that you should look for work elsewhere. But the key issue is whether you can find another job. A lot of white-collar workers have found that to be not particularly easy these days. As I said, this is a management market.

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        I’m also a white collar engineer.

        I’d not join a union under any circumstances, but if my employer expected me to work for free as a matter of routine I’d fire myself and go find another job.

        You may also have more say in your benefits than you think. Try renegotiating them in terms of “I want X, Y, and Z or I’m leaving” and you might find your employer’s more flexible than they appear. I’ve had a lot of success with this, as have colleagues.

        You never know how valuable you are until you make it clear you’re willing to leave.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        To be clear, I love my job and I have an excellent employer. In my career, I played the poker game once in order to stay and get a better deal (which wasn’t about money, by the way).

        My employer doesn’t require me to work long hours; I do it as a matter of choice so that I can meet the commitments I’ve made. However, the tacit understanding is that a long-enough record of missed commitments makes you more likely to be let go. Union protection could help me avoid this concern, which is widespread in the technical world.

        Inevitably, I’d be paid less – or be unable to find work – if I had union protection, because employers will always be able to find someone else who is willing to work for less money to have less pressure on them. I’ll rather take the money, and enjoy a good relationship with my employer.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    Technically, if you are truly a white-collar employee, I believe that you are considered to be exempt from certain labor rules, like overtime regulations. As an exempt employee, you are salaried, and thus there is no such thing as “overtime,” because you are not paid on an hourly basis. You are expected to continue until your work is done. Of course if you work for a company with a government contract, you will find that you are treated as an non-exempt, hourly worker in every way, but still considered exempt when it comes to coverage by those wage and hour rules.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Stock in Giant Inflatable Rat manufacturers plummeted following this news.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      LOL I’m guessing those Giant Inflatable Rats came from China.

      The Obama administration Labor Secretary should issue a rule that GIFs can only be used if manufactured by the United Steel Workers (who absorbed an imploding United Rubber Workers union in the 90s).

  • avatar
    Andy D

    yah yah, unions this and mgt that. Tell it to the families of the 29 coal miners who died a few yrs ago. They have fined the operators and some may go to jail, but 29 men are dead , due to safety procedures being ignored. Stuff that wont fly in a union mine. I think you cube rats are forgetting why unions were formed. Just saying is all.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Its a dangerous job. If you are unwilling to do it go elsewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Miners need a union, no doubt, as do many other workers whose lives are jeopardized by the work they do.

      Unfortunately, union presence isn’t enough to prevent accidents, but it can help prevent negligence by penny-pinching employers.

      However, when’s the last time you heard of 29 auto workers dying on the job, whether in a unionized or non-unionized facility? It doesn’t happen, because of the automation which unions fought so hard against over the years. So it isn’t quite the same environment as mining.

      I include white-collar airline pilots among those who need union protection. Pilots flying too many hours can get a lot of people hurt.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see unions forming in the medical industry soon, because of the crazy hours expected of doctors and nurses. This will become especially problematic as Obamacare comes on line and the medical money supply begins to dry up, since we’ll have the same market demand with less workers to serve it.

      • 0 avatar
        daveainchina

        If I worked in a mine and joining a union would increase my safety factor, then I’d gladly pay the dues a union charges.

        But in the auto industry at the transplants, I don’t see the cost/benefit ratio working in the Unions favor.

        I think for most people they are smart, they will join a union if there are obvious benefits that are worth the cost to them. If not, then they won’t be interested.

        Management at these places knows this so they will always work to keep the cost/benefit relation close enough that the average worker will not be able to perceive any added benefit.

        It’s a pretty simple equation, if you can make people happier ie, higher pay, better safety conditions etc. You can get them to join a union, if you can’t, then they just see it as an extra burden that they don’t want.


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